When the Train Leaves the Station Without You

chaplaingearIt was a night where everyone had expectations. But the outcomes were not what they wanted.

There were lots of referrals, several emergencies, and some long conversations with families, patients and staff. But it was also the reason why I am a chaplain — to be present and a companion to those in a health crisis. I’m not there to pick buttercups and play with puppies (though I confess I like to see the therapy dogs as much as the patients do!)

I know when I start my shift that there will be questions, issues and frustrations. Sometimes it is the result of unrealistic expectations. Outcomes from surgery or from a procedure won’t yield the easy-fix results they were hoping to see. A routine visit to the doctor leads to an alarming lab test, and then a devastating diagnosis.

I mused about this as I handed off the pager and RF phone to the relieving chaplain. I headed home tired and pretty done in. On this particular morning, I decided to commute home from work via the Washington Metro system.

Luck was not with me that morning. I missed the first train at MetroCenter, and then the second train had to be off-loaded because of door issues. Then there was the “next train” sign which stayed looking like this for 20 minutes:


YUCK!! It was NOT the commute I had anticipated. Instead of a 90 minute train and bus ride, it inflated to 2 1/2 hours.

The train left the station without me.  And the anticipated easy commute was not what it was supposed to be.

I thought of my patients…

The train left the station…

The patient that came in after ignoring her symptoms… It was too late and the cancer that had metastasized.

The chest pain that was not exertional asthma, but a serious heart attack.

The “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” bystander with a gunshot wound.

The stupidly-drunk “let’s surf the escalator” patient. (Google it. It’s dumb to try sober. Let alone highly intoxicated.)

These moments of unexpected illness and injury all resulted in questions of “WHY ME?” and “WHY NOW?” (The ultimate in rhetorical questions, and yet, incredibly existential at the same time.)

Sometimes life goes off without a hitch. Many times it does not. How we cope and move through these moments is frequently determined by our faith and our ability to see “big picture.”

The key word here is MOVE. The train doesn’t stay stuck in the tunnel all night. The bus will arrive. The interruptions to “life as we know it” will come, but it means that we have to walk through them (sometimes be carried through them.)

The train left the station…

I could wish for one of those cool MiB cars that fly upside down through tunnels (with Elvis playing!) and help my patients overcome every obstacle. It doesn’t work that way.

So wherever you are when you read this, and whatever you are experiencing… My prayer is that you will find that place of centered hope and peace and strength to get through your present dilemma. God knows… and hears… and walks it with us.

Worn by Tenth Avenue North

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